Managing Your Medication If There’s a Slip-Up

Managing Your Medication When Things Don’t Go as Scheduled

If you take medication on a regular schedule, you probably have a routine by now. Maybe you take your pills in the morning, right after breakfast, or throughout the day at designated times. You’ve probably got it down to a science, but what happens if a wrench gets thrown into your schedule? What if you forget to take a pill, or travel to a different time zone, or perhaps even get sick?

It’s always important to take your medication as directed. According to the FDA, not taking your medicine as prescribed can have serious implications, including a worsening of your condition or even hospitalization.

“Skipping a dose may seem harmless,” Michigan-based nurse Joan Meagher told University of Michigan’s Wellness and Prevention blog. “But in the long-term, it can have an effect, even though it might not be apparent at first.”

Tips for remembering your meds

Here are some easy ways to stick to your dosing schedule:

  • Use a pillbox, those long rectangular organizers that sort your pills for each day of the week. You can find pillboxes at any drugstore. Not only do they remind you to take your medication, they also remind you when you’ve already taken them for the day.
  • Set up reminders, either on your phone or at home, that will alert you when it’s time to take your pills. Some pillboxes and medication caps have timer features, as well.
  • Pair your pill taking with an already established habit. Maybe you can take them as you eat breakfast or before you brush your teeth. Whatever you decide, make it a habit that is part of your daily routine.
  • Keep a list of all your medications, especially if you take more than one or two. This way, it’s easy to track them, especially when something is added or taken away from your regimen.
  • Take your medication at the same time everyday. Even if the medication isn’t time sensitive, it’ll be a good way to make it a daily habit, without slip-ups.

Even using just one or two of these tips will help keep you on top of your medication routine.

If you forget a dose

Even if you take your pills like clockwork, it can sometimes slip your mind. Drugs typically stay in your bloodstream for a while (though not always). In that case, it’s not usually a big deal if you miss a dose once in a blue moon.

As for what to do next, pharmacist Danielle Berger told Prevention magazine a general rule of thumb: If it’s only been a few hours since your missed dose, go ahead and take it; then, pop your next pill as scheduled. If it’s been more than a few hours or it’s almost time for your next dose, just skip the missed pill.

If you’re still unsure what to do when you’ve missed a dose, call your doctor or pharmacist for the best course of action.

If you’re traveling across time zones

If you take prescriptions that are time sensitive, traveling across time zones might muddle your medication schedule.

While specific advice varies depending on the medication, the main goal is not to take more than you have been prescribed for a 24-hour period. In general, medicines should be taken according to the time since your last dose, not necessarily the local time of day, according to the CDC.

Again, if you have any concerns, check with your doctor or pharmacist before you travel.

If you get sick

Feeling sick to your stomach? The general rule of thumb is if you vomit within 15 or 20 minutes of taking your pill, take the dose again. But if you took the dose, say, an hour before getting sick, you should be fine and shouldn’t need to take another dose. Make sure that you are taking the medication as prescribed to avoid any nausea or other potential side effects.

Do you have Medicare questions? We have answers.

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